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Friday, March 28, 2014

Are the Bruins the Team to Beat Heading Into the Playoffs?

After watching the Bruins calmly dispatch the Blackhawks 3-0 tonight at TD Garden, my first reaction was "man, that was easy." Chicago (42-17-5) is missing Patrick Kane but on a team that deep and at the start of a road trip, they had no excuse for getting beat so soundly. Boston (50-17-6) has a 14-game point streak (13-0-1) and Tuukka Rask (28 saves) picked up his seventh shutout of the season (NHL best) and 23rd of his career.

Patrice Bergeron has been absolutely on fire lately and he potted two more goals bookmarking this thorough domination. At 11:50 of the first period, he tipped in Matt Bartkowski's shot from the point past Corey Crawford (20 saves). Daniel Paille assisted on Bergeron's 24th goal of the season.

One of the reasons this game seemed to go by so fast, unlike Bruins-Canadiens on Monday, is that there were only three combined penalties. Boston scored twice in the third period to put away two of their most impressive points of the season (also avenging a 3-2 shootout loss in Chicago on January 19 that you might have missed since it was right before Patriots-Broncos).

Carl Soderberg continues to build his campaign for the Seventh Player award, he followed a juicy rebound for his 14th goal of the season at 5:28. Chris Kelly and Johnny Boychuk had the assists. In Game 6 of last season's Stanley Cup Final, Chicago famously scored their last two goals in 17 stunning seconds. The Bruins got them back just a little bit this evening as Bergeron added his second goal 13 seconds after Soderberg. It was pretty hilarious too since Crawford looked like Goldberg from the Mighty Ducks movies as he intentionally pulled the net off its mooring so the puck wouldn't go in. I can't remember ever seeing an NHL goaltender do that. Brad Marchand assisted on that odd goal for Bergy.

I hadn't noticed until tonight that even though Boston has nine games left in the regular season, only two of them (April 5 vs. Flyers and April 12 vs. Sabres) are at the Garden. They are on the road for over a week and for the next four games beginning with a back-to-back this weekend in Washington (34-27-12) on Saturday (12:30, NESN) and Philadelphia (38-27-7) on Sunday (7:30, NBTC).

The Atlantic Division crown is a formality at this point and the President's Trophy is a real possibility since the Bruins are only one point behind the Blues. We'll see how they play it since they are also going to lock up the top seed in the Eastern Conference sooner rather than later (up 9 points on the Penguins).

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